NEW YORK – Everyone complains about children’s sports leagues but nobody does anything about it. George Vafakos did. Frustrated with parents behaving more childishly than their children and other annoyances that interfere with kids have a fun time and a good learning experience, he established the New York City Youth Sports Organization this past January.
The core groups consists of 46 year-old Vafakos, wife Kimberley Lancial, Scott Sorge and Richard Canizaris. He said “We hope to turn it into something like a Boys and Girls Club where you’re helping them in sports but also helping them with school and life in general.”
The focus so far is on baseball with teams – for 8, 11, 13 and 15 year olds, and a basketball team for seventh graders. They are running clinics and developing volleyball teams and training for all ages in all sports.
About 70 kids are currently signed up and the ranks are growing according to the Daily News, which recently spotlighted the group.
The organization’s aim is to branch out and do more for the kids than traditional little league operations and method includes having professional people to train the kids. “We moved away from having mommies and daddies doing the coaching,” he told TNH.
They have ex-minor leaguers – Kelvin DeLeon played in the Yankee organization and Fernando De Los Santos was an Atlanta Braves prospect – and an assistant coach from Cardozo high school running their baseball training classes.
Gus Floropoulos, who has played basketball , nd Kasim Alston an ex-coach for Bishop Lockland high school – he coached the women’s team to a state championship – help with the basketball training and coaching.
They became a 501 c 3 charity so they can solicit corporate donations to help offset the costs. Some baseball teams can cost $3-5000 per year, but their fundraising success allows them to limit the cost to $300-500 per child.
The first year’s highlights include teams winning baseball championships at Diamond Nation, a complex in New Jersey, at the Game Day USA championship on Randall’s island and another local tournament. The organization also had teams finish in second place at the Glen Cove Mayor’s Trophy and Plainedge tournaments in Long Island.
The organization is based in Astoria with games every weekend and the kids practice during the week.
Vafakos brings an MBA in management to the mix, doing the organizing rather than the coaching. He studied electrical engineering as an undergrad and he currently works for Lincoln Electric, a manufacturer of electric switch gear based in Union, NJ.
He is fortunate to be able to work out of his house, which opens up time for the organization and the family attends St. Demetrios in Astoria.
Son Vasilios is on the 11 year-old team and plays pitcher, third base and outfield.
The Astoria resident is a Brooklyn boy at heart, however, and he was thrilled when the teams played under the lights at MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones. There was even an announcer.
His father William is from Sparta and his mother Gloria has roots in Asia Minor. They raised their family at the Three Hierarchs Church in Brooklyn where he was an altar boy and a boy scout – “one of Mr. Kay’s boys” in Troop 531, the Golden Greeks.
He also played on the Three Hierarchs Youth (THY) basketball team, his only turn at organized sports.
The parish’s teams were known around New York for using more muscle than finesse to win games, but adolescent bruises yielded to lifelong friendships, which might have inspired the young Vafakos to duplicate the positive experiences for the next generations.